USA secure historic win as Ireland fail to capitalise on fast start

Middle-order power proves to again be an issue as Lorcan Tucker’s 50 comes in vain

Lorcan Tucker hit an unbeaten half-century in a losing cause. Photograph: Rowland White/Inpho

Lorcan Tucker hit an unbeaten half-century in a losing cause. Photograph: Rowland White/Inpho

 

USA 188-6 (20 overs) ( Gajanand Singh 65, Sushant Modani 50; Barry McCarthy 4-30) beat Ireland 162-6 (20 overs) (Lorcan Tucker 57*, Paul Stirling 31; Saurabh Netravalkar 2-26) by 26 runs.

It’s been exactly two months since the Irish men’s outfit were put out of the T20 World Cup by Namibia. Returning to action against the USA in Florida on Wednesday, the script was remarkably similar as a fast start was followed by a vast shift in momentum, one that allowed the Americans to secure a historic 26-run victory.

Ireland were asked to bowl after losing the toss but after reducing their hosts to 16 for four at one point, it looked like the step up to play a full-member was one too far for this USA outfit.

That line of thought proved to be very wide of the mark as half-centuries from Gajanand Singh and Sushant Modani, plus a yorker-laden death bowling spell from their trump card, Ali Khan, saw the USA take a 1-0 lead in the two-match T20I series - this despite missing a number of notable players due to Covid.

It was an ideal start from an Irish point of view as Barry McCarthy showed his new ball threat when getting USA skipper Monank Patel to nick off with the second delivery of the match.

He followed that up a few overs later with one that jagged back between Xavier Marshall’s bat and pad to clatter into middle stump. The third wicket of his opening spell was somewhat fortunate when Ryan Scott flicked a half-volley straight to Lorcan Tucker at deep square, the only fielder on the leg side fence at the time.

One of the defining trends of the recent T20 World Cup was that whoever dominated the powerplay tended to win the match. Ireland would have been hoping for that pattern to continue after restricting their hosts to 26 for four.

That reckoned without the partnership of Singh and Modani. After initially rebuilding at a steady rate, the former accelerated rapidly in the 13th over, flicking Curtis Campher over fine leg effortlessly.

The highlight of Singh’s innings was a ridiculous back foot punch that sailed high over long off. He hit five sixes in his knock of 65 (42), finally departing when Neil Rock took a sharp catch off Ben White, who was rewarded for a clever piece of bowling after firing down a fast delivery that skidded off the pitch.

Modani stepped up after playing second fiddle in the century partnership, swiping Mark Adair over the leg side for his sole maximum. He departed for 50 (39) after skying McCarthy to Singh at long off.

Marty Kain then let loose in the last over of the innings. With fine leg up, he twice found that gap to reach the fence on the first two deliveries. For the next two, he cleared it with back-to-back strokes over square leg.

188 for six then was the final total as Kain walked off with an unbeaten 39 off 15 balls. 137 runs had been scored off the last ten overs of the innings - good for a run rate of over 13 during that period.

Ireland’s chase got off to a promising start when skipper Andrew Balbirnie drove beautifully through the covers on the first ball he faced. Paul Stirling also found the boundary early, making room to access his favoured off side.

USA played responded with the pace of Khan - and it worked. Balbirnie got hold of a pull shot when challenged with the short ball, only to hit it straight down deep square’s throat.

In came Tucker then, replacing the isolating Gareth Delany at three, and he was asked questions by Khan immediately with a delivery that whizzed past his nose. Khan gave him a few words of welcome on the follow through to boot.

Down the other end, Stirling saw a chance to attack when Kain’s left-arm spin came into the attack. Boundaries over the off side plus a pull shot off a drag down ensured Ireland fired a shot back after the loss of their captain.

Stirling continued to find the off side boundary regularly, but was quickly sent back to the sheds as Saurabh Netravalkar straightened up his line, getting one to shoot through off a length and clatter into the stumps.

Ireland were 54 for two then at the end of the first six. Run rate was not yet an issue, but the loss of their two best players at the top of the order was major blow.

It proved to be a devastating one as once again boundaries in the middle overs were lacking. Tucker batted through for an unbeaten half-century, the pick of his knock an upper-cut over third man as he played the “glue” innings that interim coach David Ripley asked for from Ireland’s number three in the build-up.

Shane Getkate showed glimpses of being the partner Tucker and Ireland needed with a pair of sixes over mid wicket and mid off, but ultimately Ireland had no answer for combination of Khan’s pinpoint yorkers and Yasir Mohammad’s leg-breaks at the death.

As USA captain Patel said at the close, he can ask Khan to bowl 24 yorkers and know he will land 95 per cent of them. That is some asset to have, particularly against an Irish lineup that is lacking form and confidence.

Balbirnie suggested rustiness may have been at play in his post match comments but that Ireland ultimately just were not good enough. They have until tomorrow to shake off the rust.

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